Luis G. Pedraja, Jesus is My Uncle: Christology from a Hispanic Perspective (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999).

Jesus is My Uncle by Pedraja
Jesus is My Uncle by Pedraja

Luis G. Pedraja’s Jesus is My Uncle invites readers to reexamine their Christology through the lens of Hispanic/Latin@ culture and tradition. The author does not challenge received, creedal Christology. In fact, he assumes it freely adopting Nicaean and Chalcedonian language. Instead, Pedraja emphasizes how the common experience of many Hispanics and Latin@s sheds light of “God in Christ” as a marginalized, impoverished man with no home of his own.

The title of the book comes from Pedraja’s experience growing up in a culture where unlike Anglo culture the name Jesus is given to children. This seems blasphemous to some, but according to Pedraja it allows Hispanics to see Jesus as someone near and dear like his uncle, rather than untouchable in the heavens.

Throughout the book the uniqueness of the Spanish language is discussed. Pedraja shows how Spanish encarnación (incarnation), carne (flesh), mulato and mestizo (people whose cultural identity is a mixture of cultures), and Verbo (Verb, used to translate logos in Jn 1:1) contain nuances that help one think about Christian theology from a slightly different angle. For example, encarnación carries the idea of “enfleshment” while “incarnation” can be misunderstood as merely dwelling “in” a body. In a culture where the meat has often been recently taken from a living animal rather than butchers and shipped to a sanitized store in plastic wrap the people are forced to think more about flesh, blood, and death. Also, in Jn 1:1 “Word” carries a different significance from Verbo which emphasizes action.

Hispanic/Latin@ culture is often a based on the boarder lands. Many Latino Americans are made to feel less American than their white counterparts, but since they are American they no longer identify as closely with Mexico, or Argentina, or any of the other countries from which they may have come. Many have roots in places like Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas that are far deeper than their white counterparts, yet they are made to feel as if this is not their “real” home. Pedraja uses the example of Jesus—one rejected by his own hometown, his own people—as a means for empowering Latinos. Similarly, Jesus’ poverty is an encouragement for the many Latinos who are impoverished and lack the privilege and opportunity more easily accessed by whites.

This book is a wonderful little gem that doesn’t deny the metaphysical aspect of Christology, but neither does it leave it there. The Incarnation is “God made flesh” and therefore for Hispanics/Latin@s the earthly and earthy career of Jesus is as important as his pre-existence or post-ascension existence. In the Incarnation deity and humanity are forever interlocked and therefore God is truly with us, especially the poor and marginalized as Jesus himself made known in his teachings and deeds.